J. E. (John Evan) Hodgson.

The Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 online

. (page 23 of 35)
Online LibraryJ. E. (John Evan) HodgsonThe Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 → online text (page 23 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

knack of exactly satisfying the popular taste. Every building
that was entrusted to Smirke for execution, whether theatre,
post-office, church, or museum, was sure to possess the required
amount of classic simplicity and dignity, the Ionic portico and
pediment generally forming the most important feature in the
design ; whilst in all the monumental figures from the hand of
Westmacott that haunt our public squares, churches, and
cathedrals, we plainly perceive a more or less successful amalga-
mation of the modern gentleman with the hero of antiquity, a
result greatly due to the skill bestowed on the heavy draperies
with which they are clothed ; which draperies, besides giving a
classic aspect to the figures, ingeniously help to support them
on their pedestals.

Perhaps the most successful example of the genius and skill
of these two Academicians may be found in the building of the
British Museum, where the sculpture of Westmacott adorns the


pediment of Smirke. Sir Richard's figures, although a long way
behind those of the Parthenon in point of art, fill their spaces
well, and help much in the matter of decoration towards
the general effect ; whilst Sir Robert's work, in spite of
the hostile criticisms to which it has been subjected, is grand
and dignified in the noble simplicity of its proportions, and, as
it stands at present, is one of the few modern public buildings
in the metropolis of which the nation may feel justly proud.
The fine open space in front of the British Museum, which
allows so ample a view of it from Great Russell Street, may
have something to do with the satisfactory feeling which it
affords us, but much is undeniably due to the good taste of
the architect in the arrangement and design of the various
parts and proportions.

Sir Robert Smirke was the eldest son of the painter, Robert
Smirke, R.A. He was born in 1780, and after receiving from
his father a careful training in the knowledge of Art entered the
schools of the Royal Academy in 1796 and obtained the gold
medal in 1799 for his design for "a National Gallery for Paint-
ing." He subsequently travelled abroad and on his return in
1805 published some of the results of his study of the remains of
ancient Art.

Thanks to the influence of his father and other friends, his
undoubted talents were soon busily employed in supplying
London with buildings, for all sorts of purposes, in the improved
classic style which he had adopted. Amongst other examples
may be cited the large Doric portico of Covent Garden
Theatre burned down in 1856, a building further remarkable
as being the only one in London which was adorned with
sculpture from the hand of Flaxman, an adornment for which
it was indebted to the good taste of the sculptor's friend, John
Kemble ; the Royal Mint, the General Post Office in St Martin's
le Grand, the College of Physicians, and the Union Club.

Modern Architecture having no real style of its own, is
peculiarly liable to the fickle changes of fashion, and an architect,


if he wishes to keep in constant employment, has to partake
considerably of the accommodating character of the celebrated
Vicar of Bray ; it is not, therefore, astonishing to find Sir Robert
taking up occasionally work in the Gothic style, the revival of
which was so soon destined to supplant the classic in public
favour. Thus, in 1830-31, he designed the Library of the Inner
Temple in Gothic, and about the same time was employed to
restore York Minister, after the fire of 1829. In later years Sir
Robert worked much in conjunction with his younger brother
Sydney, and of this union of effort the Oxford and Cambridge
Club affords a good example.

Smirke was elected an Associate in 1808, and a Royal
Academician in 1811. In 1820, on the resignation of John
Venn, he was nominated by the king, George IV., to fill the
office of Treasurer. That his services in this post were appre-
ciated may be gathered from the fact that when, in 1840, he
wrote and asked the Council to " make arrangements for the
appointment of a new Treasurer," as he " felt unequal to the
fulfilment of the duties," he was both by that body and the
General Assembly unanimously requested to reconsider his
decision. With this request he complied, and consented to
remain in office as long as his health would permit. This
proved to be till 1850, when he wrote that he again found
himself under the necessity of desiring to resign the office. His
resignation was accepted with many expressions of regret, and
of flattering reference to his zeal and ability, and the uniform
accuracy and attention he had shown in the discharge of the
duties of Treasurer for thirty years.

Increasing infirmities and consequent inability to attend any
meetings at the Academy and take any part in its affairs,
induced him in 1859 to express the wish to resign his Academi-
cianship and make way for a younger man ; a step which, as he
tells the Council in his letter, he should have taken sooner, but
that he had heard it was intended to bring forward a measure
for establishing a class of Honorary Retired Academicians ; as


that, however, had not been done, he would delay no longer.
His resignation was accepted and communicated to the Queen,
who was pleased to express her approval and her " full appre-
ciation of the liberality of the motives which had actuated Sir
Robert Smirke " ; and a highly laudatory address was presented
to him by his colleagues. His death took place eight years after,
in 1867.

It may be mentioned here that the class of Honorary Retired
Academicians above referred to was established in 1862.


The decoration of porcelain at the close of the eighteenth
century was still distinctly a Fine Art, the ornamental groups of
flowers and little pictures adorning the cups and plates at that
period being generally executed with taste and care by the
actual hands of the artists who designed them. Henry Bone,
born in 1755, the son of a cabinetmaker at Truro, was, in his
youth, one of those whose genius was devoted to this branch of
Art. He was apprenticed early in life to a china manufacturer
named Cockworthy, first at Plymouth and afterwards at Bristol.
The knowledge of the operation of fire upon colours thus
obtained no doubt led him to seek a further development for
his art in enamel painting. In August 1778, he removed to
London, and earned a subsistence by making devices for lockets
and other things, and painting miniatures.

His first attempt at an enamel picture was a reproduction of
"The Sleeping Girl," after Sir Joshua Reynolds, and in 1780 he
exhibited at the Royal Academy a portrait of his wife. From
time to time he executed a number of copies of celebrated
pictures by the Old Masters, and by Reynolds, on a scale hitherto
unattained in enamel, among them being one of Titian's
" Bacchus and Ariadne," which was sold for the large price of
2 200 guineas. Besides these works and many enamels from his
own miniatures, Bone executed a series of portraits of the


Russell family from the time of Henry VII. ; also a series of
portraits of the principal Royalists distinguished during the
Civil War, some of which were completed after his death by
his son, H. P. Bone.

Another great work on which he bestowed infinite pains
with but little or no pecuniary reward, was a series of portraits
of distinguished persons in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, which
he enamelled from the Royal and other collections, varying in
size from 4 to 1 3 inches. These remained in his possession till
his death, when, in accordance with a request left by him, they
were offered to the Government for the sum of 5000, about
half their estimated value ; the purchase, however, was declined,
and the entire series was dispersed by auction.

Bone was appointed enamel painter to the Prince of Wales
in 1800, and in the following year a similar appointment to the
king, George III., was conferred upon him; he also held the
same post under the two succeeding sovereigns. His election as
an Associate took place in 1801, and was followed ten years
later by his promotion to the ranks of the Academicians. As
has already been stated, his work was by no means remunera-
tive, and in 1832 he was compelled to apply to the Council for a
pension. At his death, which took place in 1834, a successful
appeal was also made by his family to the Academy for a
contribution towards the expenses of his funeral.


Philip Reinagle, of whose parentage little is known, was one
of the first students admitted to the schools of the Royal
Academy after its foundation. He subsequently became a pupil
of Allan Ramsay, the Court painter, under whom he studied
portraiture, and exhibited his first picture at the Academy in
1773. Up to 1785 his contributions to the exhibition were
exclusively portraits, but he then abandoned this branch of Art
and took to depicting hunting scenes and sporting subjects in


general, in which he met with great success. The Sportsman s
Cabinet is the name of a publication by him in which are found
correct delineations of the various kinds of dogs used in the
field, taken from life, and engraved by John Scott. Reinagle
was an excellent copyist of the old Dutch Masters, and many
small pictures after Paul Potter, Berghem, Vandervelde, Du
Jardin, and others, now regarded as original, were made by him.
His feeling for landscape was considerable, and he assisted
Barker in painting many of his panoramas.

Reinagle was elected an Associate in 1787, on the same day
as Sir Francis Bourgeois and W. R. Bigg, and it is interesting
to note that whereas Bourgeois was advanced to the Academi-
cianship in six years' time, Reinagle had to wait twenty-five
years, till 1812, and Bigg twenty-seven, till 1814. Like Bone,
Reinagle's art does not seem to have been of a remunerative
character. In 1798, we find him appealing to the Council for
150, which was granted, "to save him and his family from
ruin," and in 1820 he was placed on the Pension List. He died
in 1833.




A SCULPTOR of considerable refinement who commenced his
artistic career as an historical and portrait painter. Theed was
born in 1764. In 1786 he entered the Academy schools, and
some years afterwards, like so many other artists of that period,
paid the orthodox visit to Rome, where he spent several years
in study. It was here that he made the acquaintance of John
Flaxman, through whose influence he turned his attention to
sculpture. On his return to England he settled in London, and
earned a very good living by designing for Messrs Rundell and
Bridge, the jewellers, and also, as Flaxman had done before him,
for Wedgwood.

He was elected an Associate in i8ii,and an Academician
in 1813. After his election to the full membership, he produced
several works in sculpture, one of which, viz., " Thetis bearing
the Arms of Achilles," a life-size group in bronze, is in the
Royal collection. There are also several monuments by his
hand in churches. The influence of Flaxman is very evident in
most of his works. He died in 1817 at the comparatively early
age of fifty-three, much respected by all who knew him.

While in Italy he married a French lady named Rougeot,
by whom he left three children ; one of these, William Theed,
achieved considerable eminence in his father's profession.



George Dawe was born in Brewer Street, Golden Square,
in 1781. His father, Philip Dawe, was an engraver, and
appears to have brought him up to the same profession, as
several engravings are known to have been executed by
him at an early age. When he was twenty-one, however,
Dawe seems to have altogether abandoned this branch of the
arts, though his productions indicate that he would have taken
no mean position among engravers, had he continued to
pursue it. In 1794, when only thirteen years old, he entered
the Academy schools, and nine years later, in 1803, obtained
the gold medal for an historical painting, the subject being
" Achilles and Thetis after the Death of Patroclus."

Dawe's good fortune was really quite phenomenal, though
probably well deserved, for if his genius was not of a very high
order, his industry and capacity for taking pains certainly did
much to supply the deficiency. In addition to his successful
work as student at the Academy, we hear of his attending
lectures on anatomy, and even practising dissection. He studied
also moral philosophy and metaphysics, and later in life acquired
a knowledge of French, German, and Russian. He was elected
an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1809, at the early age of
twenty-eight, and five years later obtained full honours, present-
ing as his diploma work a picture called " The Demoniac." To
him was awarded the two hundred guinea premium by the British
Institution for a scene from Cymbeline, and a second premium in
1811 from the same institution for a picture of "A Negro and a
Buffalo." Another success was scored by him with his picture,
" A Mother rescuing her Child from an Eagle's Nest." As well
as these successes in original composition, Dawe had numerous
commissions for portraits, and eventually, in this line of Art, his
fame became quite cosmopolitan.

Soon after the marriage of the Princess Charlotte with Prince


Leopold, in 1816, Dawe was honoured by their patronage, and
painted several portraits of the Royal couple in all varieties of
costume. After the death of the Princess he obtained the
patronage of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and went in the
suite of his Royal Highness to Brussels, and thence to the grand
review of the allied troops at Cambray, where, and at Aix-la-
Chapelle, he painted portraits of the Duke of Wellington, Lord
Hill, and several of the most distinguished Russian officers.
After this he was engaged by the Emperor Alexander to
proceed to St Petersburg to paint a collection of portraits of all
the eminent Russian officers who had taken part in the recent
war with Napoleon. He set out on his undertaking in January
1819, stopping on his way to paint various foreign Princes and
Princesses and other notabilities, among them Goethe. Dawe
was nine years in completing a series of four hundred (!)
portraits of the Russian officers, for which a grand gallery
was especially erected at the Winter Palace. He remained in
St Petersburg busily employed until the death of the Emperor
Alexander, when, being ordered to quit Russia, he returned
home in 1828, having amassed an enormous fortune, In the
autumn of 1828 we find Dawe again on the Continent, at
Berlin, painting portraits of the King of Prussia and the
Duke of Cumberland ; he also appears to have been restored
to favour at St Petersburg, for in the spring of 1829 he
accompanied the Emperor Nicholas to Warsaw, there paint-
ing the portrait of the Grand Duke Constantine. This, how-
ever, proved to be his last work, for in August 1829, he
returned, broken down in health, to England, and expired on
the 1 5th October following, in his forty-ninth year. On the
27th October he was buried by the side of Fuseli in the crypt
of St Paul's.

Dawe's habits were very abstemious, and as he was in
constant employment it is not surprising that he should have
amassed a considerable fortune ; a great part of which, however,
owing to injudicious speculations, was lost before his death.


How far the charges of selfishness and want of generosity
brought against George Dawe by his contemporaries, and which
earned for him the sobriquet of " Grub Dawe," were justly
deserved, may be open to some doubt. It is quite possible that
the extraordinary good fortune which attended his labours from
first to last, by exciting the envy of his companions may have
given considerable bias to their judgments ; especially as at
that period the patronage of British Art was at rather a low
ebb. The fact that Dawe, early in life, formed a close friendship
with that reckless genius, George Morland, a friendship which
continued undiminished through all the changes and trials of the
latter's life, and which prompted Dawe to publish his Life of
Morland in 1 807, certainly seems to imply some generosity on
his part ; for we cannot suppose it possible that this friendship
could have been maintained so long without Dawe's having to
render from time to time considerable pecuniary assistance to
his careless and unlucky friend.


Of the personal life of this artist very little is known, except
that he was greatly respected for his gentle and amiable
character, and that he was an intimate friend of Sir Joshua
Reynolds. He was born in 1755, entered the Academy schools
in 1778 and began exhibiting in 1780. Although elected an
Associate in 1787, he did not reach full membership till 1814.

That innocence and virtue were the usual accompaniments
of humble life in the country, just as surely as that vice, luxury,
and extravagance prevailed amongst the rich and town-dwellers
in general, was so universally accepted as the truth by poets,
novelists, and dramatists during the latter half of the eighteenth
century, that we cannot be surprised at finding many artists of
that period employing their talents as exponents of the popular
belief. William Redmore Bigg was one of these, his subjects
being generally little harmless and blameless episodes from


village life, in which the tender feelings of parental affection or
rustic society are held up to our admiration. The backgrounds
are conventional, consisting mostly of a few trees, a thatched
cottage, the inevitable blackbird in a wicker cage hanging by
the door, a spinning-wheel somewhere about, a peep of sky, and
a few sheep in the distance. All the members of the family
are generally introduced children, youths, maidens, and old
people ; and as there is a considerable amount of beauty in the
faces, one forgives the strong family likeness which prevails.
" The Sailor-boy's return," " Boys relieving a Blind Man," " The
Shipwrecked Sailor-boy " are the titles of some amongst many
other works by Bigg which have been engraved and enjoyed
a widespread popularity. They are often still to be found
adorning the walls of old-fashioned country houses.

These works by Bigg, when compared to those by Morland
or Gainsborough, hold in art much the same position which
Sandford and Merton, The Blossoms of Morality > or The Adven-
tures of Primrose Prettyface, do in literature to the writings of
Fielding or Goldsmith. In the present day, there is again a
demand for the engravings from Bigg's pictures, harmonising,
as they do, with the old-fashioned furniture and bric-a-brac
which is so much in vogue amongst those who aspire to the
possession of good taste.

Bigg died in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, in 1828.


Edward Bird was somewhat of a self-taught artist, and
though Constable has remarked that " A self-taught artist is one
taught by a very ignorant person," still there is always a certain
amount of enhanced value given to the works of such men in
the eyes of the public which proves greatly to their advantage.
Thus it was that when Bird commenced to exhibit his works in
Bath and London, the story of his early life greatly helped
towards the sudden and abnormal success he met with. Born



of comparatively humble parents at Wolverhampton in 1772,
he displayed all the usual precocity of genius; drawing on
walls and furniture when quite a child, receiving a box of
colours from his sister at fourteen, and then being apprenticed
to a tin and japan ware manufacturer at Wolverhampton,
where he rapidly distinguished himself by the skill he displayed
in the embellishment of tea-trays. Bird must have had con-
siderable self-confidence, too, to help him on, for on the expira-
tion of his indentures we find him setting up as a drawing
master at Bristol. It was whilst thus employed that he com-
pleted his own artistic education, and not long afterwards
began to produce pictures of genre for which he found no
difficulty in obtaining purchasers. When he began to exhibit
at the Academy in 1809, he was hailed by the London connois-
seurs as a sort of Bristol wonder, just as Opie had been spoken
of as " The Cornish wonder " ; and when at length his picture of
" Chevy Chase " was ready for exhibition, the tongue of praise
was so loud in its favour that poor Wilkie, in a fit of timidity,
withheld his own picture from the exhibition for that year.
" The Death of Eli " succeeded this picture, and was equally

A proof of the rapid success Bird met with may be found
in the fact that, elected an Associate on 2nd November 1812,
he was promoted to full membership of the Academy on
roth February 1815, having had but a little over two years to

But Bird's powers were not equal to his ambition, and he
eventually found his true metier in such subjects as "The
Country Auction," "Gipsy Boy," "The Raffle for the Watch,"
and others. In his later years he seems to have again adopted
subjects of a loftier aim, but without much success, as he had
not the imagination necessary for such works. Amongst these
later productions were several scriptural subjects, " The Death
of Sapphira," " The Crucifixion," etc. He was greatly mortified
at the reception these pictures met with from the fickle public,


and this, together with the loss of two of his children, no doubt
hastened his death, which took place in 1819.

His friends and admirers in Bristol gave him a grand funeral
in the cathedral, where a simple tablet to his memory was
afterwards placed by his daughter.


This distinguished portrait painter presents a fine example of
the perseverance and energy which are so characteristic of the
Scottish people. There is nothing in the facts of his parentage
or of his early life to indicate from whence he derived his
artistic feeling. He was born in 1756", the son of a manu-
facturer at Stockbridge, Edinburgh. Left an orphan when only
six years old, he received his education at " Heriot's Hospital,"
the Christ's Hospital of Scotland, and was apprenticed to a
goldsmith at fifteen.

During his apprenticeship we find him attracting attention
by certain miniatures which he painted. His master, struck by
the youth's talents, kindly introduced him to a portrait painter
of repute in Edinburgh, named David Martin. Young Raeburn
soon made rapid progress under the influence of this artist ;
and having purchased the remainder of his apprenticeship,
commenced in earnest his artistic career. He had many diffi-
culties to contend with, having received no preliminary instruc-
tion, but by his indomitable perseverance and energy he
gradually overcame all obstacles. Making good use of his
intercourse with Martin, he soon began painting life-size
portraits in oil, and at the same time lost no opportunity of
seeing and studying collections of pictures, so that he soon
obtained considerable popularity.

When only twenty-two years old he married a widow
possessed of some property, and soon afterwards came to
London, and was introduced to Reynolds, by whose advice


he visited Italy, and remained there for about three years.
In 1787 he returned to Edinburgh, where he was soon acknow-
ledged the chief portrait painter. Honours now flowed in upon
him ; in 1812 he was elected President of the Royal Society of
Artists at Edinburgh ; and in the same year became Associate
of the Royal Academy, full membership following in 1815.

His promotion was as rapid as that of Bird, already alluded
to ; indeed they were in each instance elected on the same
day ; but in the case of the Associateship, Raeburn preceded
Bird ; while for the Academicianship their positions were
reversed. Raeburn's offer of his own portrait as his diploma
work was declined by the Council on the ground that it was
" not usual to receive as diplomas the portraits of members,"
and he was requested to send "some other specimen of his
talents." This he did not do till 1821, when he presented "A
Boy and Rabbit." He never appears to have attended any
meetings at the Academy, either of the Council or the General
Assembly, and in 1 8 1 7 he wrote asking to be allowed to sign

Online LibraryJ. E. (John Evan) HodgsonThe Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 → online text (page 23 of 35)